Bears in caves


The purpose of this activity is to engage students in problem solving to find an unknown addend.

Achievement Objectives
NA1-1: Use a range of counting, grouping, and equal-sharing strategies with whole numbers and fractions.
NA1-3: Know groupings with five, within ten, and with ten.
NA1-4: Communicate and explain counting, grouping, and equal-sharing strategies, using words, numbers, and pictures.
Description of Mathematics

In readiness for this problem, the students should have familiarity with each of the following components of mathematics. The problem may be solved with different combinations of these components.

  • Counting one to one
  • Counting on
  • Equal sharing
  • Partitioning 

This activity may be carried out with guidance, or by allowing the student to follow their own method of solution. The approach should be chosen in sympathy with students’ skills and depth of understanding.



Here are three caves.
There are bears in each cave.
There are 12 bears altogether.

If there are 2 bears in the first cave, how many bears might be in each of the other caves?


Note to teacher: This activity requires materials for illustration. The ‘bears’ could be counters or buttons, the caves could be paper cups.

The visual approach (show more)

  • The student is able to use images and/or objects to represent a problem and find a solution.

The conceptual approach (show more)

  • The student is able to solve a problem using sharing and other strategies, to find unknown addends.

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